At political rallies since Friday, Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called for New Zealand to reinstate capital punishment so the Christchurch gunman can be executed. And now, Erdogan has began making his case by screening footage of the attack.
When the 29-year-old killer stormed two mosques on Friday, killing 50 and injuring dozens, he live streamed the tragedy via Facebook. And while the video screened by Erdogan has been heavily pixelated, the sound of screams and semi-automatic gunfire is still clearly audible.
The original 17-minute clip was viewed about 4,000 times on Facebook and 8chan before being taken down, 29 minutes after the shooting had started. The New Zealand Government has since declared it illegal for anyone to share, download or poses a copy of the video file. One 18-year-old New Zealander has already been arrested for inciting violence after sharing the video online. He was denied bail on Tuesday and now faces up to 28 years in prison, according to Nine News.
Yet in Turkey, this video has now become an electioneering tool for the conservative leader. Since Friday President Tayyip Erdogan has shown the video at several rallies and threatened anti-Islamists with violence if New Zealand fails to restore the death penalty.
"You heinously killed 50 of our siblings,” he said, in a translation reported by the ABC. “You will pay for this."
His most recent rally was held near the Gallipoli peninsula where in World War One thousands of ANZAC soldiers lost their lives attempting an offensive against the Ottoman Empire. And it was this history—framed as a conflict between Islam and the West—that featured throughout Erdogan’s speech.
"They are testing us from 16,500 kilometres away, from New Zealand," he stated, suggesting that the gunman’s actions were part of a wider movement of anti-Islamist violence. “This isn't an individual act, this is organised.
"Your grandparents came here … and they returned in caskets," he said, sweeping a hand towards the infamous beach. "Have no doubt we will send you back like your grandfathers."
Erdogan's Justice and Development Party—officially known as the "AK Parti"—has dominated Turkish politics for 16 years but has recently lost ground as the economy has slid into recession. For the president, this has meant doubling down on populist rhetoric before the March 31 election.
The desperate ploy, however, hasn’t been lost on Turkey’s opposition leader, who condemned Erdogan's screening of the Christchurch video as just "for the sake of [winning] three or five votes.”
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